Agency Management Systems present a significant cost to the agency. They are complicated systems that require time, attention, and skill to ensure that they are being managed and used effectively within an agency. Any agency that has been through an Agency Management System conversion can quickly tell you that it never quite goes as planned. It is a challenging process with an unending number of factors that impact every operation in the agency. In short, converting to an AMS may be the most stressful technology upgrades an agency has to make.
So how should agencies prepare for the conversion process
1.) Assess the full scope and expenses of the project (and budget accordingly) – It is critical that agencies have as much information as possible before beginning the journey of the agency management system process. Gather details from the vendor regarding the training, timelines and cost.
- Training – The vendor should be able to provide a proposed training plan which should detail the types of training available whether it is live webinars, on-demand webinars or in-person instruction. It is also important to get details regarding additional training options the vendor could provide should this be an option the agency needs to provide to employees.
- Timeline – The integration process will likely be extensive with different programming, data transfers, and other set up taking place throughout the process. Be sure to have a complete understanding of what needs to happen at each stage and the associated timeline for all steps of the process.
- Cost – Agencies should have a clear understanding not just of the cost of the system itself, but also cost associated with the onboarding process including programming and implementation, standard training and additional training employees may need.
2.) Assign a Project Manager – Any significant project that an agency undergoes needs a person leading the charge. The AMS conversion process is no different. This project manager will need to have a comprehensive understanding of the old and new system. They will also need to have extensive knowledge regarding the steps required in the conversion process. The project manager will need to be the point of contact between the vendor and the agency and remain in continuous communication with the vendor during all stages of the process. Taking time to develop this insight will allow them to manage the process and communicate the action plan to the rest of the agency more effectively.
3.) Hire an Implementation Specialist- Whether or not an agency has a Project Manager assigned from within the organization, an Implementation Specialist can be a tremendous asset during the conversion process. An implementation specialist will have extensive knowledge of the AMS and can help provide valuable insight regarding the nuances of the system. They will also be able to give specific direction as to steps that need to be taken at all stages of the process to ensure the conversion goes as smooth as possible. This type of service does come with a hefty price tag, so agencies will need to be clear on the cost up front.
4.) Invest time in data cleanup – Many of the issues that rise to the surface after a system conversion can be traced back to bad data. Whether it is incorrect use of data fields within the applications or failure to inactivate old files, bad data in one system will slide into the new system and create headaches for everyone. Taking extra time to clean up prior to moving information from the old system to the new will prevent a lot of stress down the line. Agencies can also outsource this work rather than burden agency staff with the cleanup tasks.
5.) Opt for an extended preparation timeline – There is no “undo” button once an agency hits go on a system conversion. It is much better to take extra time prior to the conversion rather than go through the stress of trying to remedy issues after the fact. Opting for extended preparation time will allow agency additional time for data cleanup and training. Have both of these squared away and in good shape will help prevent a lot of stress when the new AMS goes live.
The conversion process is not an easy one and 100% of the headaches are not preventable. Taking these steps should help agencies have a better experience when it is time to upgrade.